Barlow's Beef: Banking on big profits


Apparently it's only just occurred to Cheshire East that large developers are screaming the case for the need for more housing then simply banking the land without actually building anything. God knows where CEC have been looking for the past 30 years.

You don't have to be clever to dupe Cheshire East... you just need to be brazen as large developers learned decades ago.

Take the derelict site of RH Stevens in Macclesfield. CEC granted planning approval for 144 houses over four years ago but the change in planning policy relaxing greenbelt development has left this brownfield site without any takers.

Open land at Fence Avenue, less than a mile away is far more attractive where developers are falling over themselves to build. The argument that there is a desperate shortage of housing in the locality simply disintegrates when brownfield opportunities are highlighted.

It is common practise among builders to bid for large tranches of easy to develop open land but build only enough houses to meet existing demand thus keeping prices high. The remaining land will be banked and developed only in line with rising prices.

It's been the modus operandi of all large developers for decades: grab as much land as possible bank it and release it only as the housing market rises. IF CEC think that all those sites they are so eager grant planning approval will increase housing supply thus making it easier (and cheaper) for families to own their own home they are delusional.

The answer clearly is to attach conditions to the sale of such land that makes it uneconomic for developers to delay building. I am no expert but surely it's not beyond the bounds of CEC to insist property tax must be paid in full for all approved dwellings from 12 months after sale of the land.

Communities are being destroyed by the current Build it and They Will Come policy. CEC are so easily duped ( by developers) into granting permission on the basis that the market is desperate for more supply. Why not make them put their money where their mouth is?

It's time for Cheshire East to stop being naive and show the same metal they employ fighting residents to their dealing with disingenuous builders.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Pete Taylor
Tuesday 19th January 2016 at 2:36 pm
Very interesting Vic; especially so as it appears that CEC has refused (13th January) the Local Plan Inspector's recommendation that they should publish the final list of site allocations for the Local Plan prior to public consultation. As Michael Jones is still the Leader at CEC, until he steps down at the end of February, should we be surprised by this?
Barry Stafford
Wednesday 20th January 2016 at 11:16 am
VIC. Just added my comments on the huge housing development ,on Adlington Rd 'Green Belt' as was. No small flats,terraced or mews houses,for newly weds or singles.Just the usual 4/5 bed luxury houses.No plans for infrastructure. I.eroads. to take all the traffic.
Ryan Dance
Friday 22nd January 2016 at 10:08 am

if the developer had proposed new roads - no doubts this would have caused a much greater stir.

let's call out the facts rather than trying to hide behind local infrastructure/ sustainable development blah blah

It was never about the supporting infrastructure or building mix. Had the site been identified as suitable for sustainable, green or even housing association development.........the outcry would have been greater.
Mark Goldsmith
Friday 22nd January 2016 at 11:59 am
The whole planning process is farcical.

The government wanted more local say i planning, so created Local Plans. This involves sky high fees for "experts" and overtime all round at the council and planning offices.

But the system is so complex, no one understands it. CE clearly doesn't as its plans keep getting rejected. But even if they do get passed, the government can over ride them anyway if it suits them.

Now the CE planners won't even bother to tell us what they are spending our money on or why.

Outside of FIFA, can anyone think of a more perverse, pointless, self-serving waste of money?
Simon Worthington
Tuesday 26th January 2016 at 1:28 pm
"let's call out the facts rather than trying to hide behind local infrastructure/ sustainable development blah blah"

So Ryan, with 900 or so houses at Woodford, proposed 2000+ in Handforth, plus around 500 in the pipeline (to provide housing for all the workers in offices built on former carparks) and no High School planned. All within 5 miles are full to bursting as are primary schools but at least one primary is planned for Woodford.
Where do your kids go to school and where are all the kids who move into the housing you champion so loudly going to go to school?
Manuel Golding
Tuesday 26th January 2016 at 6:06 pm
Cheshire East's own house build figures -
Period 1st April 2010 to 31st March 2015 (5 years of the proposed 20 years of the new Local Plan):-

No of homes with PLANNING PERMISSIONS - 18,935
No of homes COMPLETED - 3,552

Just a mere 18.75% of permissions completed in 5 years!

What is going on? What game are the developers/builders playing?
Is it called Land banking? Is it called Greed?

They say they cannot sell their houses. That maybe so with the difficulty in obtaining mortgages, plus the high deposit being demanded.

But when the builders & agents & barristers rush to appeals they all too readily shriek that the Council does not have "a 5 years building supply". Of course not because you, the builders are not building on your previous permissions; so they win yet another appeal.

If developers are refusing to build up to their permissions, for whatever reason, there can be no justification for continuing demanding further permissions. Obviously, despite their submissions to the Inspector & to the Council, there is just no true need for the housing numbers they are demanding. Put up and build now or shut up!

Developers etc are playing a game in which they cannot lose, all thanks to the flawed and unfit for purpose NPPF, of which our M.P. is both one of the authors and strong advocate. He has so far refused to either listen or understand communities very grave concerns, as he has done, or not, here in Wilmslow. He sees his "economic strategy" based on housing development, which is rather akin to, and he has been told, "incestuous economics" (I don't wish to explain this phrase in any detail in a family journal) as being his saving the nation's economic rebirth rather than the country earning its living by selling products & services overseas to be helped via him offering positive tax benefits.

About time Mr Osborne opened his eyes to the damage his "legacy" is doing to the country. But do not hold your breath folks, there are none so blind as those who do not wish to see!
Nick Jones
Tuesday 26th January 2016 at 9:24 pm
@ Manuel.. The 15,000 difference in these figures appears to be a great opportunity for CEC to either ;charge full council tax on each house NOT BUILT or, place a punitive charge on the land with an accruing rate for the same reasons... difficult but why not. ??
Finding land and authorising development has already been done and ignored.. banked for profit not social need / requirement. That's why the local plan is a farce ignored by CEC and Westminster. IF this remains unchallenged the concrete over green spaces brigade COGS.. will get their way sooner than you think !!
Toni Fox et al despite best efforts are being distracted by its value or lack of... that is why its being ignored by other parties. So when Westminster authorises fracking in the Carrs...etc...
Manuel Golding
Wednesday 27th January 2016 at 1:24 pm
@ Nick - Developers will continue to make appeals against the Council's denied approval for X homes on Y land. The developers will win the appeal based on the utopian "5 years housing supply"; it will never happen, it is like a desert mirage. The Council thinks it sees it but it doesn't really exist. The developers refuse to allow it to exist and they come back for ever more planning permissions for ever more homes they will not build and add the land to their ever growing 'land banks'.
The entire fault for this travesty, this destructive blight on local communities, is down to flawed planning legislation, the NPPF, our MP being one of the guilty architects. Councils have their hands tied by this ill devised planning policy - it is entirely favouring developers. There is no element within the NPPF for councils to insist or even demand that sites with permissions must be developed within a reasonable time-frame. No development, doesn't count towards the mythical "5 years supply".
It is nothing less than a charter for uncaring, greedy developers. We, the voters, don't count.
I understand that Cheshire East has expressed its grave concerns to the Government with the flawed legislation and is suggesting changes. I suggest something in the order of severe monetary penalties, for example council tax charges x 2 x every year on each uncompleted property for which permissions have been granted, without Corporation Tax mitigation that cannot be offset against overheads - a straight forward fine. (e.g. a site with planning for say 200 homes, CT @ £2500 per house x 2 = £1million per year)
Residents of Wilmslow is also actively pressuring for penalties as are other affiliated groups around the country.
This is all before and in addition to our grave concerns with Cheshire East's latest LP strategy, trying to ignore residents' concerns and acting counter to the Planning Inspector's recommendations on procedure. In this we need the sycophantic Conservatives on both councils to stand with RoW for the betterment of our neighbourhood but will they?